Ask most any basketball coach about a 56-point loss and they'll act like it never happened. Ask Lubbock Christian women's coach Steve Gomez about his team's 95-39 loss to the University of Connecticut last Nov. 2, and he'll tell you all about it.
In fact, the school has put out a five-minute YouTube video (titled LCU vs. UConn) about the Lady Chaparrals' trip to New England that culminated with the exhibition against the Huskies at the XL Center in Hartford.
"It was a great opportunity to start the year against one of the best teams and the best coaches in the world of women's basketball," Gomez said. "We knew what we were getting into. But for us it was great to see how hard they played, the preparation and effort they made, and how they competed regardless of the score for 40 minutes.
"Sure we got beat good," Gomez continued. "But we talked a lot of about it and took a lot out of it. It was such a great experience. I've said, it's the best 56-point loss that I could have ever imagined."
LCU will take a perfect 15-0 record (7-0 Heartland Conference) into Thursday night's home game with Texas-Periman Basin. The Lady Chaps are ranked No. 1 in Division II by D2SIDA (sports information directors) and No. 2 in the country in the WBCA/USA Today coaches poll. They started the season ranked 23rd.
And Gomez points to their game against the 10-time national champion Huskies as a key to their success so far.
"It's one thing to watch them play on ESPN," Gomez said. "But it was different to be on the court with them and see such great players work and compete so hard. Once we saw it, it's been something that we've tried to emulate at our level. We wanted to build on some things that we did well against them and our players learned they wanted to compete like they did."
LCU is one of four Division II programs in the nation still undefeated and has won 13 of its 15 games by 20 points or more. The Lady Chaps leads Division II in field-goal percentage (50.1) and have held opponents to 32.5 percent shooting, which is fourth nationally. They are second in the nation in scoring margin (27.9).
Senior point guard Nicole Hampton paces a balanced attack, with senior guard Kelsey Hoppel and sophomore forward Tess Bruffey also averaging in double figures. Last year's leading scorer, senior Haley Fowler, is shooting 61 percent from the floor.
Perhaps LCU's best win came last Saturday at Arkansas-Fort Smith. A sellout crowd was waiting for the Lady Chaps at the Stubblefield Center and the game was nationally televised as well. But LCU scored the first five points, led by double figures after five minutes, and went on to an impressive 73-50 victory.
Again, Gomez pointed back to his team's UConn experience.
"There were over 3,000 people there. It was packed and it was loud," Gomez said. "We usually don't play in front of big crowds. But we had been to a big arena in Hartford where there were thousands of people and the band and everything and played against great players. We were prepared. We were ready to come out and just play the game. We were calm and determined and we got off to a great start on our way to a big win. Being at a place like the XL Center gave us the chance to know what playing in that kind of atmosphere would be like."
The YouTube video tells the story of what LCU's trip was like, starting with its exhibition win over Fisher College and its tour of the Boston area that included stops at Fenway Park and along the Freedom Trail.
The Lady Chaps and their nearly 200 supporters then made the journey to Hartford and got on the scoreboard first on a drive by Bruffey. It was 3-2 for LCU when its defense turned UConn All-American Breanna Stewart over three times in a 51-second span.
Stewart eventually finished with 25 points and the Huskies blew the game wide open. But LCU had made an impression on UConn's Hall of Fame coach.
"I'm not surprised they've been successful," Geno Auriemma said. "They were good before. They have a good coach and a culture of success. And I think the benefits of playing against us get overlooked. Some people say, 'Why do want to play Connecticut and go get beat that bad?' But there will be things that they will get done and you'll go back to your team and go, 'We just executed these 15 things against Connecticut. The teams we play don't have the things that Connecticut has. If we can do it against Connecticut, we can do it against every team on our schedule.'
"If a team came in here and just thought, 'Well, they have Breanna Stewart and Moriah Jefferson,' that's missing the point. They understand. They get it. I'm thrilled that they are having that kind of success."
The feeling of admiration is mutual.
"We follow them how we can, on TV or ESPN3, and we're big UConn fans," Gomez said.
The Lady Chaps may watch UConn but they still have a lot of playing to do. This is their first season as a full NCAA Division II member and therefore they are eligible for postseason play.
They are taking things one day at a time.
"The thing that we talk about is going 1-0 on that day," Gomez said. "We don't worry about being undefeated or having won 15 in a row. It's about winning each day, going 1-0, getting better, and just grinding it out because it's a long season. We want to win or conference and our conference tournament. If we do that we could be in a position to host our regional tournament which would be great. Our postseason hopes are in our hands."
Perhaps the Lady Chaps and Huskies could run into each other again in April. The 2016 Division II national championship game will be on April 4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The 2016 Division I final will be played at the same site the following night.